A cold and rainy week here in Tulsa, and as I write this on Tuesday afternoon, I’m already over it. But hey, a lot of great music out in the world this week, and a small slice of it is covered here. Also, new Foxy Digitalis (and Jewel Garden!) t-shirts are coming in the next couple of days (or next week at the latest). Foxy Digitalis Daily is over on Patreon today – sign up!
Elina Bolshenkova Flood Management (Infant Tree)
Gravity is a blackened rainbow on Elina Bolshenkova’s incredible Flood Management. Bits of wonder and beauty are tarnished, broken apart through an ink-filled prism as the world’s weight continually pushes downward. Elegiac reveries seep through, winnowing darkness from remnants of starlight, adding to the urgency of each melancholy arrangement. Memories seep through cracks like lost souls wandering aimlessly in decaying, resonant halls. Even the quiet moments where clarinets bark and melodies echo into the night are heavy, each notes another pinprick drawing blood. There’s an effervescence buried within accordion swells waiting to be found, and Bolshenkova extracts every ounce of feeling from these fleeting moments, soon to be lost forever. Essential listening.
Soheil Shayesteh nhA (Zabte Sote)
nhA is a deeply immersive work. Stirring string arrangements bring focus and exaltation through timeless arrangements and emotional texture. Shayesteh wrings entire worlds from the Kamancheh, each drawn-out passage an invitation to search for inner transformation. This music moves with quiet precision. Poignant phrasings are heightened through restrained electronics and, especially, Viola Blache’s spellbinding vocal performance. Soaring melodies fold into staccato breaths as dramatic arrangements build beneath. Single notes are stretched toward an endless night, the inky black emptiness beyond beckoning in the defining moments. This is an incredible album.
Aura Gaze The State Of Pure Being (Aural Canyon)
Cosmic drifts open between desert canyons, spilling acoustic reverie and gossamer synth waves into the midnight air. The State Of Pure Being glows in vivid colors. Flowing silver rivers emerge from zither mountains and tanpura clouds, coalescing into a bright sonic wonderland. Each track is its own journey, whether flickering between flute serenades and steel resonance or billowing beneath a neon electronic sky. Purpose and reflection permeate every aural fold, the gaze searching the distance for a place to find peace.
Seven Rivers of Fire Hail Star of the Sea! (Ramble)
South Africa’s Seven Rivers of Fire weave an intricate, growing web of acoustic fantasies and improvisational abstractions. From the opening moments of Hail Star of the Sea! an expressive drama unfolds. Tightly-woven guitar leads meander across eons, spinning epic tales of adventure and exultation. Harmonium drones add richness, bathing specific passages in warmth while setting the stage for vocal incantations to help us drift backward in time. The narrative here is engaging, an utter delight twisting together in captivating violin and recorder duets spun together with a whimsical melody. There is so much here that it’s impossible to not feel wholly immersed in Seven River of Fire’s world. An absolute gem.
Sheng Jie aka gogoj Review (Dusty Ballz)
Angles intersect angles on Review, where Sheng Jie twists minimal guitar scapes into broken wire sculptures. Hollow spaces creak with piercing frequencies, sharpening corrosive echoes to a brittle point. Electronics sputter and crackle like there’s no care left in the world. A harsh blip splits the radar screen in two before the city finally sleeps in the arms of amplified cello drones designed to split atoms. Review is strange and beguiling. Dissonance creeps out from the shadows, spilling pointed aspirations across the muddy floor without any hope of being clean again. When the distorted shards come for us, there’s nothing left to do but levitate and hope for the best. Great stuff.
Susana López aka Susan Drone Stupor Mundi (Vestíbulo)
I continuously find myself lost in this expansive slab of the euphoric drone. Universes are distilled into dilated sound waves where single details last an entire lifetime. I love how this album never stops building, with each piece longer than the previous as we dig toward the Earth’s core. Cold atmospheres burst into flames, pushed forward on singed frequencies and high-pitched gloss. Stupor Mundi is focused and often intense, but it never feels claustrophobic or overwhelming. There is space between each sonic layer to drift and take it all in. Abstract percussive rumbles sound like distant thunder while buried, disembodied voices swirl around a central, static point. It’s mesmerizing and oddly beautiful, giving a moment of respite before the monolithic closer, “Drones to Zazeela,” sends us beyond the cosmic veil.
Plankton Wat The Forgotten Dream (Self-Released)
Rolling into the morning with fresh grooves in his pocket, Dewey Mahood, aka Plankton Wat, sends two dreamers into the world. New ideas bloom in the sonic valleys, sparked to life on emotive guitar leads and phased-out waves. Bouncing around like lost echoes, riffs ascend into clean, cold air before falling back to Earth with a laid-back intuition and reflective environment. Bass lines keep the spiraling guitar missives tether to the ground, letting the musical meditations circle around effortlessly. Plankton Wat always brings the vibe.
Extra Draw / Orb (Goto Records)
An excellent and unexpected collaboration between Howard Stelzer and Brian Grainger (Milieu, Coppice Halifax, etc.). Draw / Orb is an expansive aural narrative. Static imagery gently decays into tactile atmospheres filled with organic instrumental passages and textural field recordings. Each moment has considerable depth as Extra moves slowly toward a fixed point in the distance. Drones drift into quiet melodies accentuated by passing cars and birdsong, the twinkle of memories filling the periphery with a pensive whimsy. Details add so much to Draw / Orb, building shadow worlds within the story and expanding the sonic universe Stelzer and Grainger have built. Before dawn cracks the surface, we’re overwhelmed by massive swells to nudge us forward into the next phase.
Darren Harper Sown (Dewtone Recordings)
Sometimes it’s enough to just take a breath. Darren Harper offers five vignettes sculpted from familiar tones and quiet reflections. Aloft on wobbly tape loops and emotive, gleaming synth passages, Sown offers a sympathetic cocoon with muted light waves. Melodies drift apart, each fragment sprouting into new throughlines, seeding pathways toward blithe landscapes. Tiny sound droplets sing joyful tones, further brightening the universe Sown inhabits. In small spaces, Harper creates so many lovely moments for solace and reflection. I find myself returning to this music often.